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   What is "semantic markup"?

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I have a suspicion that the answer to this question may be no easier than precisely defining what we mean by a URI.

I came across an old quote, June 2000 I think, attributed to one Simon St. Laurent which reads,

"SVG strikes me as beautiful but dangerous, promising designers QuarkXPress-like layout without any of the flexibilityor semantic markup of XML or even XHTML."

So, at least according to Simon's mental construct of a couple of years ago, XML and XHTML had semantic markup when SVG doesn't. At least that seems to me to be the natural reading of Simon's comment.

So what is being claimed that XML and XHTML have that SVG lacks? Is the same claim being made for XML that is being made for XHTML? Or are there shades of semantic markup? Since XHTML of the time was essentially HTML 4.01 in XML angled brackets then the logical consequence is that Simon considered that HTML had "semantic markup" characteristics too.

Looking at the question from another angle which, if any, of the following statements is true? XML is self-describing. Generic XML markup has no semantics.

When some people indicate that XML is semantic markup what type of semantics are being referred to? Is it semantics accessible to a human reader? Machine processable? Both?

So ... just what is semantic markup?

I have a suspicion that many use the term "semantic markup" indiscriminately without seriously considering its meaning. That in itself may be a profound irony, given the general notion of what semantics may be. Semantic markup sounds signficantly more imposing than mere angled brackets. When the term "semantic markup" is used is something being communicated clearly or is an imposing sounding term being substituted for real understanding?

Andrew Watt


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